Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Big Families Make Me Crazy - and ultra organized

Our new and improved "mud room" (aka, hall in the basement)
We built the shelves out of left over sub-flooring and laminate
panels from our kitchen remodel. Waste not, want not!
A month or so after we got married I started seeing a therapist. To be completely honest I was planning on doing that after I got divorced, but then I started working, and being a single working mom kept me really busy. Then I got married, and things got even busier with the new kids.

But then everything got overwhelming, and I didn't know how to talk to my spouse yet, so I figured it was get to a therapist or my would-be happy beginning would become a tragic ending.

Anyone who knows me probably knows that I am a little neurotic, slightly OCD, and live for my routines. I get crankier than my kids when they don't go to bed at bedtime, and it's even worse if our bedtime routine isn't followed perfectly.

Because my divorce, adjusting to working, getting married, and blending three new kids (we have all six kids full time) all happened within such a short amount of time, my routines went out the window, my house was a disaster (oh, and we tore apart the kitchen at about this same time), and my anxiety level was about as high as I could manage.

So I went to a therapist and she helped me with a lot of stuff (therapy tidbits deserve their own posts too, so I won't go into detail there). She helped me figure out that I didn't have to go crazy just because there are half a dozen kids in my house all needing my attention, 160 kids at school all needing my attention, and one awesome man who really deserves my attention but doesn't get enough of it.

She reminded me weekly of what my dad had been trying to tell me from the beginning: It takes time.

Yes, I know it takes time, but I needed coping mechanisms to keep my sanity in the meantime. And that's what therapy got me.

And so in the meantime, while I was waiting for everything I had no control over to work itself out, I got busy with the things I did have control over. A big thing for me is organization. I have OCD tendencies, which I think actually serves me well with a big family.

So the chore charts got revamped:

 Red means stop, green means go (of course). Each kid has daily chores which are divided up. We've got things like empty trash cans, sort laundry, harvest produce, sweep, vacuum, wipe bathroom counters, etc. Then we have "area" chores. Each kid is assigned an area of the house to keep clean. Living room/upstairs hall, kitchen/dining area, bathrooms, downstairs hall, playroom, etc. They aren't allowed to just move things from one area to another. Anything in their area must be put away. We have signs all over the house that say, "A place for everything, and everything in its place." (I told you I was a little OCD...)

Justin came up with the red/green idea. If their chores are all on green, they are good to "go" - play outside, play with friends, have screen time, etc. If the chores are on red, they have to "stop" and do chores. It's pretty fantastic!

The wheel is our "after dinner chores" - really it's after meal chores in the summer. But during the school year we don't really do clean up after breakfast and lunch, because lunch is at school, and we run out the door after breakfast. We turn it one turn every day, so kids keep a chore all day long during the summer. This one makes after dinner clean up a snap. On days when the kids are focused we can get even the biggest dinner cleaned up in under 10 minutes! There is definitely power in numbers!

Next the Weekly Calendar and Menu. This definitely needs to be "prettified", but it gets the job done. It hangs on the side of the fridge so anyone can see what is going on that day and what the meals are for the week.

 This is probably my favorite chart. I love that the kids can start getting any meal ready without me having to really tell them what to do. We usually put what veggie/side dish is being served, too. So the kids could pull out meat to defrost, start water to boil for pasta, or whatever needs to be done. It's also nice for the kids to be able to see what we're going to be doing that week. The whole schedule for the week is on there, including Dad's work schedule.

Can't forget FHE. Here is our Family Home Evening Chart. Each family member has a little wooden guy (Seth's is the one that isn't decorated yet). The cups are Lesson, Talent, Activity, Treat, Hymn, Conduct, Scripture, and Prayer. It's easy for the kids to rotate, and they enjoy painting their guy. We plan on updating our guys (if desired) each year in the fall. Spiderman is Cory. Ha ha. He's so awesome!

Last but definitely not least, my new laundry room! Justin built shelves for me that fit these baskets from IKEA. Each child has a basket and when I empty laundry from the dryer I just fold it into the basket of the owner (Vince and Ryan share clothes, so I just divide theirs up between their two baskets). The clothing stays there until they do their "Put Away Laundry" chore (a daily chore - check for clean laundry!). This is easy for me, because my responsibility ends the moment the clothes are in those baskets! If kids are running low on clothes I can usually tell they haven't been doing their laundry chore, but it's easy for them to run to the laundry room and get clothes from their basket.

Justin also put the old cabinets from our kitchen in the laundry room, and now I have storage! I love storage spaces.

I am loving being ultra-organized. It did take time, but the kids have learned the routines and now they know what to expect. Even this week after a week of camping and the 4th of July holiday the kids got right back into the routine with relatively little complaining or dragging-of-feet.

So it paid off to be a little OCD?


  1. Great ideas!

    I do yearly menus so I know what we are going to eat but I don't have a posting in the kitchen and I get so tired of hearing, "What are we having for dinner?" from every single person in the family. I am going to try out your method starting this weekend.

  2. I LOVE your laundry room idea. I think I'll start working on ours today. I am really organized in some things but seem to struggle at the house. Crazy! Thanks for being so OCD at your house so we aren't so disorganized at my house :-)

    And I like the menu idea too. I had all of our menus on the calendar for a year and now we have revamped our eating, so I need to redo them. But I still get the question: ?What are we eating for dinner/lunch/breakfast? Having it on the refrigerator they can just look for themselves!!